Thursday, May 16, 2013

Manta Ray vs Stingray: What's The Difference?

It has come to my attention that many people aren't sure what the difference is between a manta ray and a stingray, and often misuse the two terms. Let me clarify.

In short, a manta ray is a type of stingray. A manta ray is to a stingray like a boa is to a snake.

I've noticed some people will slap term "manta ray" onto any old stingray, which is incorrect, as a manta ray is a specific genus within the ray group.

This is what a manta ray looks like:

The manta ray has distinct white markings and cephalic fins on either side of the head. And it's huge.
This is what a southern stingray looks like:

A southern stingray is NOT a manta ray.
This is what a cownose ray looks like:

A cownose ray is NOT a manta ray.
The manta ray genus is within the eagle ray family. This is what a spotted eagle ray looks like:

A spotted eagle ray is NOT a manta ray.
Once again, the manta ray:

A manta ray IS a manta ray.
Hope this clears some things up! Now please don't ever call a stingray a manta ray again.


Jaimie said...

I've been teaching my two year old that her little model eagle ray was a manta ray ALL. THIS. TIME. haha. Thanks for the clarification! I hope she takes the news OK.

Debi's Cali-bound dream days said...

FYI. A Manta Ray is NOT a type of Stingray as you mention in your analogy. They are types of ray and there are only two types of Manta Rays.

Surfer/KittyCat girl said...

So is Mr.Ray a Manta Ray OR a Eagle ray?

Keith Smith said...

Debi's Cali-bound dream..... Although the manta ray does not have a stinger as the sting ray does, it is still technically a type of sting ray, as the other examples given here. There are other types of rays to the sting ray, such as electric ray and skater which have different methods of protection and have a different body shape. But the manta ray falls under the sting ray family.

Unknown said...

Keith, I would agree with Debi that manta rays are not stingrays. I've been researching the topic while preparing a new aquatic program at my museum. I was hoping to put together a quick list of ways to tell stingrays from skates, but it's more complicated than I expected. There are a lot of very similar creatures within the superorder Batoidea. However, the Manta Pacific Research Foundation, Aquaviews diving magazine, and the Florida Museum of Natural History all have pages devoted to helping differentiate stingrays, manta rays, electric rays, skates, guitarfish, etc. All of those sources (and yes, the dreaded Wikipedia as well) agree that manta rays are not stingrays. I haven't really found any academic or institutional sources that specifically include mantas as stingrays. Just rays overall.

I know it's a year and a half later, but if you happen to see this, do you have any specific sources or cladistic arguments for why mantas should be called stingrays?

Marsella Yohana said...

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Isabelle Ho said...

I am an 11 year old doing a research project on mantas in the Maldives. I also went diving and got my Open Water Junior certification. (Before, I'd only done PADI Seal and PADI Master Seal.) In the past, the limit was a ridiculous 4 metres, but now, I can dive up to 15 metres. Because of this increase in the maximum depth, I went to Nelivaru on my second boat dive ever, and saw my first manta ray while diving. (Before that, I'd only seen them while snorkeling.) I love mantas and I will be presenting to about 50 pupils from my school doing various research projects. Wish me luck!

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